CJ McCollum, '13, smiles as he is awarded his retired jersey on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at Stabler Arena. Eight years ago today, McCollum and his teammates stunned Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

8 years ago today: What I remember when Lehigh beat Duke

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Brackets busted, hearts broken — what makes March Madness so exciting?

On March 16, 2012, I witnessed No. 15 Lehigh upset No. 2 Duke, and it became the best day of my life. 

I was in sixth grade when I made the 480-mile trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with my mom and two brothers. 

I remember telling my friends that I was making the trip, and someone told me, “Katie, why are you going? They’re going to lose by 30 points.”

I laughed at him and said, “Don’t support them when they win.”

When Lehigh beat Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship, I told my family we had to go to the game, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My mom said she would think about it.

I was a ball girl for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, so I was close with the players and even got to watch the Selection Sunday show at Lamberton Hall with the team. 

A couple of days before the game, my mom surprised us and told my brothers and me that we were going to the game. I’ve never been more excited than when she told us the news. 

On March 13, we got in the car and made an eight-hour trek. I sat in the car, thinking about what my friend asked me. “Why am I going? What if we lose and this trip was for nothing?”

I suddenly started to question myself because of what someone told me. “I have always been a Lehigh fan since I can remember, so why was I letting the doubters get to me?”

On the day of the game, my brothers got the Mountain Hawk logo shaved into their heads to show support for Lehigh.

As I entered the stadium, I was excited about what was, potentially, to come. I was excited to cheer on Lehigh no matter what happened. 

Duke fans expected the game to be a blowout. They were wrong.

Then a junior, C.J. McCollum finished with 30 points to help propel Lehigh to the No. 1 search on Google. 

When the clock hit zero and Lehigh had won 75-70, March 16, 2012, became the best day of my life.

The day after the win, I walked into the mall with my family wearing our Lehigh shirts. 

People started coming up to us and telling us, “We’re North Carolina fans, so thank you for beating Duke.” I have never been more proud to wear a Lehigh shirt than in that moment. 

I felt like I was on top of the world that week. 

Part of what makes March Madness exciting is the unknown. Not many people believed in Lehigh before the game, or had even heard of the school.

Any team can win on any given day and, on March 16, 2012, it just so happened that the team I’ve been watching since I was little won against a national powerhouse. 

Unfortunately, Lehigh lost 70-58 on March 18, 2012, against Xavier, which would have put them in the sweet 16. 

The week after they beat Duke, I returned to school and the same kid who told me, “Katie, why are you going? They’re going to lose by 30,” told me, “I’m jealous you got to witness that game, we were all cheering Lehigh on from home.”

This was when I realized people are going to love you when you’re at the top. Before they stunned Duke, he was criticizing Lehigh.

If Lehigh had listened to all the people that doubted their team and let it affect them, I don’t think they would have gone on to beat Duke.

“Suspend the disbelief.”

This year, due to COVID-19, there will be no brackets busted, but somewhere right now, a team is gearing up to be the next Lehigh.

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1 Comment

  1. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    Katie, thank you for being a Lehigh fan before being an official part of the family; this is even if your parents may have been “Lehigh family”. Lehigh’s local fans are and should be greatly appreciated; they are special people in the best sense of the word.

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